As Marines, fitness is just one part of the job. We asked you to ask our expert, Chelsey Gant, Fitness Specialist with MCB Hawaii, your questions on strength and conditioning. She responded with some great tips and tricks for keeping you mission ready.


Q: Is there any benefit to working out in the morning vs the evening?

A: There have been numerous studies on the effects of morning versus evening training sessions, but studies show that there is not a significant difference in benefits. This is truly based on your preference, circadian rhythm, and schedule.

Q: What foods do you suggest eating before and after workouts? When should you eat them?

A: I suggest eating foods that are easy to digest such as simple carbohydrates. This will give your body the energy needed to fuel your workouts at least 30 minutes prior to your training session. After a heavy lifting or long endurance session eat the three main macronutrients to supply and refuel your metabolism. Funny enough, the best thing that you can have after a workout is chocolate milk. It is recommended to eat as soon as possible to increase muscle protein synthesis.

Q: What is involved in strength and conditioning? What are some common methods of strength training? What exercises would help with increasing pull-ups?

A: This is a fun question! The strength and conditioning field is an undermined field, we are the base and top tier of health and wellness. Strength and conditioning can solve almost any co-morbidity and is the least used method to treat them. If done correctly, strength training is able to adapt to a stimulus that will help you live a longer more pain-free life.  Strength and conditioning coaches push limits, strive for greatness, and hate excuses because coaches want the best for their athletes. Common methods of strength training include barbell training (Olympic and powerlifting), dumbbells, sandbags, and kettlebells. There are numerous types of programs that will help you achieve your goals whatever they may be, a coach can create a program that fits your needs and schedule as well.

To help with pull-ups, focus on shortening the range of motion and add more each week. You can also work on the eccentric contraction (the descent) of the pull-up. For this, you can do lat pull downs single and both arms and rows of any variation. And as always work on pushing motions when trying to focus on a pulling motion, you’ll be so surprised how much pushing exercises help with pull.

Q: For strength training where is the line between healthy growth and over training the muscles? Is training seven days a week counterproductive, due to lack of rest for growth?

A: This is such an important question! Yes, there is a fine line between overreaching and overtraining. Overtraining can lead to stress fractures and a decrease in recovery which can overlap to your training. I will always recommend rest days. If you are overtraining, it can take months to recover.  Look for signs of overtraining including decreased performance and desire to perform, decreased appetite and sleep, and increased resting heart. This will all be dependent upon training volume and intensity with how you recover. If you are just starting out and workout six days a week with no training history, there will be a risk of damage. Rest and recovery is when growth happens. If you are running every day at the same intensity, when is there a chance for your muscles to recover? The harder you train the harder you need to recover.

Q: What are some good exercises and stretches to strengthen the lower back?

A: Any exercise that involves core stability will inherently strengthen the back including your lower back. Exercises can include squats, deadlifts, and shoulder presses. To target the lower back you’ll want to do exercises such as planks (of any variation), prone superman, or back extension (don’t do hyperextensions though). Usually when the lower back is in pain, look at the surrounding areas to see if your lower back is compensating for other muscles such as your thoracic spine, glutes, or hip flexors.

Q: I am currently raising my personal records for the big four lifts using the 5-3-1 method and wanted to know great accessory lifts for deadlift that can be done at a home gym? Located on Camp Hansen!

A: Hello from Hawaii! Deadlifts are a favorite of mine. I have done this program before and have seen some great responses from it. Some accessory lifts you can do include hip thrusts, Romanian deadlifts, back extensions, paused deadlifts, and tempo deadlifts.

Q: What is an effective warm-up for lower body heavy lifting low rep exercises?

A: Happy mobility and warm ups are part of the workouts, not sure if this is deadlift or squats so I’ll break them down into those two and there will be some crossover. When doing these exercises, pick a weight that has an RPE of 5-6. They shouldn’t be hard or heavy but enough stimulus to result in some light perspiration.

Deadlifts: Banded or Barbell Good Mornings, Banded Lateral Walks, Farmers Carries, Kang Squats, Glute Bridge Walk outs, and Inchworms.

Squats: Banded Air Squats, Goblet Squats with a Press-out at the bottom, Banded Lateral Walks, Cossack Squats, Kang Squats, Lateral Lunges, Walking Lunges, and Goblet Squat Holds.

Q: My favorite exercise has always been power cleans, but now that I don’t have access to a gym I have nowhere to safely do them because I don’t have rubber weights. Can I achieve a similar burn/workout experience using only kettle bells?

A: Focus on the mechanics of the power clean through the kettlebell to get the same effect. Work on deadlifts, high pulls, upright rows, shoulder press, and goblet squats. You can do it unilateral or bilaterally loaded too.

Q: I want to start lifting weights but my husband only has dumbbells and kettle bells that are 30+ pounds. What weight should I begin with?

A: That’s great that you want to start lifting! If you don’t feel comfortable lifting 30 pound weights to start, investing in a weight you feel comfortable with will help with sustaining the desire to workout. It’s not a bad idea to push yourself if you feel inclined to do so and can do it with good form.

Q: What are some of the best strength exercises for runners?

A: All exercises are good for runners. There isn’t a bad exercise if done correctly and effectively. Exercises that support the legs, spine, and shoulders will be best.

Q: How important are rest days in terms of decades of your life? Both aerobic and anaerobic.

A: It depends! How much of each are you doing, what’s the volume and intensity looking like? Are you fueling after your workouts? How much stress is going on? Many factors need to be considered so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for this. It is recommended that there is a 48 hour time gap between if lifting the same body part such as legs, to give the body time to recover and resynthesize. For aerobic exercises to reap the most benefits, having a rest period of 24 hours is recommended.  As you get older we tend to lose testosterone (both men and women) which is one of the main muscle building hormones. Women also lose estrogen; which is a heart protector, after menopause. With that being said, it’s imperative to listen to the body, is it saying “give me rest!” or is it eager to train? Ultimately the choice is yours, make it a smart one.

Q: I’m currently working on night shift and I’m just wondering if there is any benefits of working out past midnight?

A: A follow up question to this is, did you sleep prior to working? If so, then I wouldn’t say it would be a bad thing as long as you sleep well after training. If you didn’t sleep prior to working, call it a day after work and get some rest. Sleep resets our body, if we train while sleep deprived there will be a decreased response in metabolites that support muscle building. If it works for you and are able to recover, stay on top of work, and enjoy it, then go for it.

Q: In regards to bettering your PFT scores, is it better to practice running fast or practice running long distance?

A: This is an excellent question, and the short answer is, you should be doing both. Try incorporating sprints, long distance, and combination of the two to your workout regimen. I guarantee you will see an increase in your PFT scores. Also make sure that you are running correctly. Find your local coach and have them assess your running so that you can become more proficient.  To increase your running mechanics focus on stride length and stride frequency. Stride length is the distance between your right and left foot when they hit the ground. Stride frequency is how many steps per minute.


Want to get your strength and cardio up? Check out your local MCCS Semper Fit Office for fitness centers, fitness classes, and more resources to help you achieve your first class PFT. 


**The information provided is for educational purposes only. Please consult a professional health advisor before adjusting your health and wellness routine.